A sort of violent absurd existential science fiction epic about conformity, spiritual despair and loss of memory.
I wrote this play in 1989, when I was seventeen years old. It shows the heavy influence of Samuel Beckett, Sam Shepard, Kurt Vonnegut, Talking Heads , Pere Ubu (the band,) Dada and Monty Python.
No-one has ever read this play except me, and yet I think it might be the best one I wrote.
(Starts with the hum of machines.)
PLATYPUS: This isn’t silence. This is the roar of many machines. Our forefathers left us mechanical mothers, monsters with a growl in their arms. We’re hungry and we haven’t seen the light. Our forefathers left us and it hasn’t been the same. I’m waiting for someone to tell me the time, and maybe then it will all be gone.
(SCIENTIST and STATESMAN wear dark glasses. SCIENTIST is at a desk, STATESMAN is at a podium.)
SCIENTIST: A man with a wooden cross stumbled across the road in front of me. The clouds looked like rain. I turned to my wife and I said, I’ve never been religious. I’ve never been religious. She had headphones but they weren’t on. Then the light changed.
STATESMAN: When the lights changed I couldn’t move. The lights were on me. I was in the glare. The limelight. But this was Venus, not like Earth. My hands were at my sides, and I was very still like a statue. Like a grey stone forefather.
PLATYPUS: Well, when I first got here, I looked around, and I said – I looked at all the people, and I said, what’s going on here? What’s my job? Look, I’ll show you…
(Flips through a small notebook crammed with diary entries. Goes to first page and begins to read in a dramatic, official voice.)
“Journal of Platypus, Day 1, Hour 1: Today I finally got here. Well, I looked around and I said: What am I supposed to be doing here?”
(Looks up to see audience reaction. Seeing that there is none, he tries once more.)
Alright, let’s see… (flipping through some more pages)
“Journal of Platypus, Day 11, Hour 5: Why do we all like Jesus? We’ve never even met him before. I said this at lunch today and Gopher threatened to hit me in the face. I was forced to flatten his head with a hundred-pound iron girder. Just kidding.”
Ah no, that’s not it. Let’s see, let’s see… (flipping)
Ah. Here it is – “Journal of Platypus, Day 32, Hour 7: Yesterday I read through entry number one again, and then I said to Gopher, ‘What’s my job here,’ and he said ‘What?,’ and then I said ‘What’s my job?’ And he turned around and gave me a bad look, and he said, ‘This is your job,’ and I said ‘What do you mean this is my job?’ and he said ‘This is your job, asshole’ and tried to swing an iron girder at me, but I grabbed his wrist, kicked him in the right shin, ripped his right arm out of the socket and shattered his left wrist-bone. Then I beat him with the girder for ten minutes.
Gopher wasn’t at work today. I don’t like this job anymore. I wish Gopher hadn’t fallen apart so easily. Every day I think more and more about our forefathers. I still don’t know what my job is.”
(Pause as PLATYPUS looks up. He is now embarrassed.)
Uh… (flipping back,) I think I missed something… maybe I should – I’d better go back. (To himself,) Where - ? Uh, this one is from Day 19: “Today we got some new girders but I broke one…” No, no, this one… let’s see, Day 12: “I saw Gopher doing something with a machine today… I think it was bad… his face was turning blue.” No, no.
(Getting desperate and very self-conscious)
Let’s see, maybe forward, here. Day 52, um, “Today they nailed Gopher to a cross and he almost got hit by a car. More and more people are going blind, but I think they look good in sunglasses.” Okay, here it is!
(Relieved, rushing to find his place) Back, back: here? No, here:
“Day 49, Hour 12: Today the Space Queen arrived and changed our lives forever.”
(Looks up to see if this line has shocked the audience. Seeing no reaction, he continues.)
“Our lives will never be the same. Not ever. Never again will we ever, ever be the same.”
(Looks up once again. Seeing that the audience is still not excited, be becomes nervous and unsure again.)
“She came from the sky where the lights were. All at once I knew it was her – the Queen of Space. Well, she’s in charge now.”
Day 49: “The Queen of Space is trying to kill us. Today she took some people and they’re not coming back. I’m scared she might take me, too.”
Day 50: “I’m not going in…” (Pause) That’s all that one says. It’s not finished.
Well, here’s the next one, Day 51: “Today the Space Queen told me to go find Gopher but I got lost.
There are lights in the sky now. I have noticed for the first time just how many machines there are. There are lots of machines. The lights made Gopher blind. Everyone can’t see. I don’t know why, but I can still see.”
Day 52… I already read this one… well, I’ll read it again (reads through very quickly) “Today they nailed Gopher to a cross and he almost got hit by a car. More and more people are going blind, but I think they look good in sunglasses.”
Day 53. (Suddenly reads slower and becomes grave) “Today I think I did something bad. I didn’t know if it was bad but I don’t know, I just did it. I don’t know why I did it. But I was at work… Gopher had been cremated… I was pulling a lever but suddenly I got really mad. And I just picked up this girder… the Space Queen is loading people onto ships… big metal ships with ramps and everybody kind of stands there and shuffles in.
They’re all blind now… everybody looks like an advertisement, they’re all wearing sunglasses. But they were just standing there… like mushrooms, and I took the girder, and I was really mad. I hate the Space Queen. All I did was like hitting mushrooms. I just went in there and started hitting them. The heads came right off. I was swinging away, counting.
Everybody started to scream, but they couldn’t get away. I was counting. I got to 153 when I was getting tired and suddenly the Space Queen came and flashed the lights at me. I was so scared I ran but she made me stop. She was so angry, her face got all twisted. She made me cry. She made me run into the machines.
I’m in the machines now. I can’t sleep. I feel funny. I think I’m lost. I hate the Space Queen. Maybe I’ll find our forefathers and we can get some hundred-pound iron girders and bash her up. I wish I was dead.”
(Long pause. PLATYPUS is visibly shaken.)
I’m having trouble thinking because I think these machines will never stop. I wish I knew what time it was. I’m not afraid.
I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU! (Pause to collect his wits)
Our forefathers who art in heaven, please turn on the lights and deliver us from salvation.
(Spotlight leaves PLATYPUS.)
SCIENTIST: The other day my wife and I were beating each other with iron pipes when the television came on all by itself. It was a special bulletin. “Look at the sky,” it said. “Look at the sky.” Limping to the window, I observed an incredible display of luminous patterns and incendiary outbursts. Turning to my wife, I said “Is it a holiday?” She fell backwards onto the floor like a crucifix. Then I went blind.
STATESMAN: I’m not an easily prejudiced man, but when I see lights in the sky I can’t control myself. I don’t know how we got here, but I’ve only just gotten used to it, and there’s no way I’m going to leave now. So you can tell the Space Queen to go back where she came from and leave us citizens alone.
SCIENTIST: Fellow members of the scientific community, I’d like to introduce you to a new problem of epic proportions.
STATESMAN: Fellow citizens, I’d like to beat you all with an iron girder.
PLATYPUS: (Writing away in diary, speaking as he writes) “Journal of Platypus, Day 54: I have lost my sense of direction. I thought I saw Gopher with his hair on fire, but he wasn’t really there.
Then I started laughing. I couldn’t stop, I was rolling on the ground crying, I was laughing so hard. Then I ripped out some of my hair. When I saw the blood, I threw up. Then I walked and hit my head on a wall. Then I saw the Space Queen, and she turned to me and she had a girder in her hand.
I thought she’d hit me, but she took me in her arms. I felt funny, but then I bit her arm. Then she hit me with the girder, but not hard. And then she apologized, and then she left. My head hurts but I feel okay. I made up a poem: actually, it’s a kind of a song:
“The safest bet”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “The bet that’s safe”
PLATYPUS: “Is to forget”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “Not rub and chafe”
PLATYPUS: “What came before”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “What you have seen”
PLATYPUS: “So lock the door”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “And shut the screen”
PLATYPUS: “And close your eyes”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “And don’t talk loud”
PLATYPUS: “And tell no lies”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “And don’t be proud”
PLATYPUS: “And don’t you kill”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “Those friends of yours”
PLATYPUS: “They’ll lie real still”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “And clog your pores”
PLATYPUS: “Try to be nicer”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “Or the Space Queen”
PLATYPUS: “Will put you through the slicer”
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: “Like you’ve never seen.”
PLATYPUS: I’m hearing voices. I think I’ll start a new religion.
(The SPACE QUEEN enters, looking very unremarkable and wearing normal clothes. She is carrying heavy chains and two collars.)
SPACE QUEEN: It’s time to go home.
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: Oh no! It’s the Space Queen!
SPACE QUEEN: It’s time to go home.
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST: But we are already here.
SPACE QUEEN: And now it’s time to go. (Goes to
STATESMAN and SCIENTIST, attaches collars to them, holds chains at their ends and ascends upstage to the spaceship door.)
SCIENTIST: Fellow scientists, it’s time we resisted gravity meaningfully.
STATESMAN: Fellow citizens, please embark with us on a new voyage into the politically exciting nether realms of the new morality.
PLATYPUS: I don’t understand.
SPACE QUEEN: Then you never will.
PLATYPUS: That’s not fair. Why can’t I go?
SPACE QUEEN: Because you’re not blind.
PLATYPUS: I hate you.
SPACE QUEEN: I love you.
PLATYPUS: I don’t need you. I’m waiting for our forefathers!
SPACE QUEEN: I am your forefathers.
(SPACE QUEEN disappears into spaceship with STATESMAN and SCIENTIST. Door closes. Lights on PLATYPUS.)
PLATYPUS: This is silence. The roar of many machines. The roar of my thoughts in my brain in my head. Our forefathers are only our arms and legs. The mechanized mother was only a babysitter. I’m still hungry. I’m waiting for someone to hand me a hundred-pound iron girder, and maybe then it will all be gone.